Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Troy? Meh.

Excuse me if I’m a little skeptical of this whole Dinosaur Bar-B-Que thing. The Times Union reported yesterday that the long-awaited purveyor of slow cooked meats will open in Troy no earlier than September.

Dinosaur Bar-B-quein Syracuse is a great institution that’s managed to maintain its mojo even after selling 70 percent of the companyto billionaire investor George Soros.

The stuff on the walls is real, the dirt is real, the bikers are real, and the sassy waitresses have a certain charm one only gets from spending your life in Syracuse. It’s a noisy, crowded joint that’s fun as hell. The atmosphere is more than a little anarchic; you almost expect to walk back into the kitchen and find it looking like a cross between Breaking Bad and Hell’s Kitchen.

You don’t just go there for the food. And how is the food? It’s not bad.

The best bar-b-cue I’ve ever had was in a dark little storefront on the dusty main drag of Castroville, CA, “Artichoke Center of the World.” We walked into this place and were greeted by a couple of mildly scary Willie Nelson looking guys. We figured we were either about to have some genuine Q or end up in the smoker out back.  Willy #1  put a platter of sliced brisket and beans in front of us. We sat under a big Texas flag and pretty much licked our plates clean.

Don’t get me wrong; this is not a review of a restaurant that hasn’t opened, let’s just call it a cautionary musing. Maybe they cantransplant Dinosaur’s outlaw biker vibe to Troy’s waterfront shrine to failed restaurants. Nail up a bunch of crap on the walls and nobody will know the difference. It works for Applebee’s. And if the food is good, who cares.

So what if it just makes you want to get in your car and drive to Syracuse for the real deal?

You can fabricate an experience, but that doesn’t make it authentic. Going to Morocco in Epcot doesn’t mean you’ve visited North Africa, and eating at the Rainforest Cafe doesn’t put you in the rainforest.

30 thoughts on “Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Troy? Meh.

  1. That location is also cursed. Granted, the Fresno’s was terrible management with even worse food, but still, I’m cautiously optimistic.

    I think it’ll work out fine, and they’ll probably be able to replicate the experience to an extent. However, I am a bit tired of hearing about it. People act as if this moving into Troy will single-handedly revitalize the entire city; as if the border that seperates the city that people recognize from the woefully impoverished section that starts just three blocks north of the location will somehow magically dissipate because people who live in Albany will have a new place to Tweet about.

    This is not to say I’m against Dinosaur Barbecue coming; far from it. I just want people to be cautious in putting all their hopes behind what is essentially a chain restaurant moving in to the city.

  2. What Troy really needs is one of these Chipotles that are popping up every where else in the capital district 🙂

  3. The five years I lived in Syracuse were the 10 longest years of my life. I have two positive memories:

    1. Genl admission tix to Chiefs’ games. Very good baseball for $3.50, saw Juan Guzman pitch a rehab assignment one afternoon with about 100 other people. Awesome day.

    2. The Dinosaur.

    Believe me, driving to Syracuse, unless your Mom and Dad live there and love you, is not a real deal I’d recommend as a bucket list item. Let the big reptile come to Troy and do what it does. Get a little Zen sauce on the ribs and sit back.

    I’ll take your Castroville and raise you a Greenville, NC, pig-pickin’. They don’t need no Texas flags or tomatoes in the sauce in Greenville.

  4. Kevin: I wonder if they’ll have a dock at Dinosaur? First I’ll need a boat of course…

    Sam: Those were some good donuts, but not drive way the hell all over the Capital Region donuts.

    Dallas: Still haven’t been to Chipoltes. What’s the consensus, everybody?

    Gman: I can do Syracuse with my eyes closed. Not like we’re talking about wings in Buffalo. That’s driving!

    Amanda: Some folks made me get off the Thruway in Kingston to go to Sonic. I was like, “What the hell?” It was definitely worth the detour.

  5. Let me one-up you, Amanda: when, o, when will Jack in the Box come back to the Northeast? I lived on their tacos wen I lived in Hawaii years ago…in all their greasy goodness.

    Dinosaur BBQ is on to something, though. Not everything on their menu is the best BBQ you’ll ever have, but I tell you what…they have the best damn BBQ chicken I have ever had! Can’t wait to get me some Dino chicken, baby!

  6. Damn, I’m old. All this talk makes me remember when there was a Wetson’s in Schenectady…like about 1970.

    The Sonic where I went to college actually had roller skating servers. But the jones has not hit me yet enough to make me drive to Kingston for Sonic vittles.

  7. There’s an old White Castle building on Central, a bit west of Northern. Converted to a Rock Joint/Night Club years ago.

    East Syracuse Conella’s Bar-B-Que – done outside on the hugh grill – nothing fancy, but good. Also has nice fish fry(done inside). A must when ever I was in the area.

  8. I’m not that crazy about Chipotle’s. I like Moe’s better. For a sit-down Mexican dinner in Clifton Park, I love Pancho’s.

  9. For those in the Capital District, beware, Dinosaur is very over-rated. My wife loves the Cuse Dinosaur and I can’t stand it. You have to “get on the list” to be seated, you can’t get to the bar to even have a beer while you wait, and your table is turned over in 15 minutes. I guess the pulled pork is good (I always have a hamburger just to spite them), but the atmosphere is awful.

    P.S. Yes, the owner sold majority share to Soros, however, he never told anyone locally in Syracuse. It wasn’t known until about a year later, when this Troy location permits were filed. The Syracuse Post Standard called out the original owner about the names on the Troy permits, and only then, about a year later, did he admit that he sold majority share in Dinosaur BBQ. He tried to still play it off as “mom and pop” when he had in fact sold it off to Wall Street…..

  10. To #7 Amanda – You’re not missing anything with Sonic – I lived close to one for 3 years. It’s really not all its hyped up to be. Their portions are small and their prices are not. i still think its funny that I can’t go one day in Albany without seeing a Sonic commercial yet there’s not a Sonic anywhere near here.

  11. Bob’s right about the crowds at Dinosaur; it’s impossible to get in there sometimes.

    We once thought we’d stop in before driving back to Albany, but it was so crowded we got our food to take out and ate it at the first Thruway rest stop we came to.

    Syracuse does not strike me as a restaurant town, unless you’re a fan of Cracker Barrel.

  12. Brook’s BBQ in Oneonta beats the over-rated, over-hyped and over-priced Dinosaur hands down. Talk about the best BBQ’d chicken! And it’s guilt-free cuisine. When you have BBQ at Brooks, you don’t have to fret about making Soros any wealthier.
    Not to get off the subject, but when you are talking restaurants in Syracuse, how about Dominicks?

  13. Chucky: Brooks is top notch, especially if you get to have it in Oneonta. I’d welcome some Syracuse restaurant recommendations. I’ve done some good eating in Buffalo, but Syracuse? Not so much.

  14. I think this discussion is a good example of “it’s all relative”, considering we all don’t live in North Carolina, Texas, Memphis, etc.

  15. BL: Definitely. I was in Columbus, GA over the summer. There’s more BBQ than you can shake a stick at — all of as good or better than Dinosaur.

  16. BL: Definitely. I was in Columbus, GA over the summer. There’s more BBQ than you can shake a stick at — and the two places I ate at were as good or better than Dinosaur.

  17. Yes, I forgot about Brooks House of BBQ. Used to be great to catch a ball game at Damaschke Field and then hit Brooks.

    But really, let’s not cap too hard on Dino about wait times and crowding. That’s the SOP at just about any restaurant in LA, and frankly, there is not much competition in Syracuse.

    All in all, ‘cue has to be really bad to be bad. Not that I haven’t had bad ‘cue, but the Dino most certainly does not rank with the rank.

    The best BBQ experience is actually setting up the Weber, throwing a Boston butt on the grill, and slow-smoking yourself it whilst drinking a couple of frosty beers. It helps to have some NC ‘cueing experience but not necessary.

  18. I wanna love bbq..I’m a fat guy,I should.I just don’t see what all the fuss is.Maybe I haven’t had great bbq..maybe Dino jrs’s will be my epiphany of smokey salvation. We’ll see I guess.Of course everytime I drive to Troy I get lost…there’s like 5 4th streets and they are all going the opposite way I want to go.
    If I find the place I give it a try.

  19. I didn’t know George Soros was involved. I’ll pass on Dino BBQ. There are many better BBQ places in the country.

  20. Hey Barry S: Be careful of any BBQ joints in Arizona. You may have to produce your birth certificate to get a table.

  21. Meh indeed. I am totally turned off the the Dinosaur now that I know Soros owns most of it.

    However, I must admit that I love their food. I’ve been to the ‘Cuse location a few times, and to the Rochester joint once. Pulled pork that will knock your socks off. But, I will vote with my feet and make my own pulled pork at home. I will not even buy the sauce in the grocery store anymore. George Soros, why do you have to ruin everything?

    And, my husband I are big-time Sonic fans. Every time we visit his mom in Madisonville, Kentucky we make a point to stop at the Sonic and have some grub. Haven’t been to the ones on Kingston or Poughkeepsie, because we actually get to Kentucky more often than to either of those two places.

  22. As a lifelong participant in capitalism, I don’t mind people selling out to a big corporation. What I mind is people selling out to a big corporation and then making believe they’re still indie. Hello, Ben and Jerry.

    As for Soros and politics, one might argue that the biker culture that’s a running theme at Dinosaur is against big government tampering in their lives. Strictly speaking, that would make them conservatives, libertarians, or even anarchists — but not Democrats.

  23. OK Rob, you asked for some Syracuse restaurant recos. Here you go:

    1) Arad Evans Inn, Fayetteville. This charming place is housed in an 1840s Federalist-style residence, which makes it feel like you’re a guest in someone’s home. It’s a feast for the eyes and the mouth. I only ate here a few times, but each time was AMAZING.

    2) Pascale Wine Bar & Restaurant, West Fayette Street, downtown. Upscale atmosphere, incredible food, great wine selection. I liked to take out of town guests here to impress them.

    3) Lemon Grass, West Jefferson Street, in the heart of Armory Square. Excellent Thai food in an appropriately Zen atmosphere.

    4) Aunt Josie’s, North Salina Street in the heart of the old Italian neighborhood. The real, old-school Italian deal. It’s not fancy, but the food is plentiful, authentic Italian. Their antipasto is the BEST I’ve ever had, and their signature dish, “Aunt Josie’s Special” (cavatelli, broccoli & mushrooms in a butter & garlic sauce) is to die for.

    5) Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Nuff said.

  24. went to school near Syracuse and never ate there, but had them at a Blues Fest a few years ago. Now every time we vacation near Syracuse (isn’t the joke that if you live in upstate your idea of a vacation is going to Syracuse?) We stop and enjoy! Love LOVE the pulled pork (of course my husband makes it better- he also makes killer wings, and ribs) and the fried green tomatoes. Can’t compare it to Southern BBQ, but it’s better then the pulled pork locally.

    If you want good BBQ get dino’s cookbook and make it yourself. You can tweak the recipes to your liking. We’ve gotten rave reviews at our BBQ’s that we made from the recipe book. The beans come out totally out of this world!

    And count me in as one who as soon as I found out Soros owns it now, it’s kind of made me feel dirty for eating there. It’s turning into a chain, but it’s still good food!

  25. I don’t really understand the hate towards Syracuse… Does Albany have any native restaurants or regional foods that have become semi-famous? Because in the 10 years I’ve lived here since moving from Syracuse, I haven’t heard much. Buffalo has buffalo wings, Rochester has garbage plates, Syracuse has Dinosaur BBQ, Binghamton has chicken speidies, Utica has tomato pie & chicken riggies…

    @ #12 Bob – “get on the list?” you make it sound like its a red carpet after party. You have to “get on a list” at 95% of all restaurants. It’s called waiting your turn.

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